Phony contractors arrested at sting operation

GARDENA – Seventeen people were arrested at an undercover sting in Gardena this past weekend that targeted unlicensed contractors. More than seven dozen people may face criminal charges after being caught by the Contractors State License Board in simultaneous sting operations March 10-11 in seven cities throughout California.

“Several of the suspects we targeted turned out to be repeat offenders and individuals with a criminal history and drug violations,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi A. Christenson. “If you knew their backgrounds, you’d never allow them near your home or family.”

In Gardena, authorities arrested Jose Carlos Leon, of South Gate, who was booked on a six-count, $120,000 felony warrant in connection with three illegal contracting incidents in the Los Angeles area.

Leon, who was arrested when he arrived at the house to give a bid, was charged with three counts of identity theft and three counts of misrepresenting a contractor license, all felonies, stemming from consumer complaints against him.

A different suspect arrested in Gardena had been cited twice previously at CSLB stings, and is on probation for one of the offenses.

Seventy-seven suspects also may be charged with illegal advertising. State law requires contractors to place their license number in all print, broadcast, and online advertisements.

Those without a license can advertise to perform jobs valued at less than $500, but the ad must state that they are not a licensed contractor. The penalty is a fine of $700 to $1,000.

Three others may be charged with requesting an excessive down payment. In California, a home improvement project down payment cannot exceed 10 percent of the contract total or $1,000, whichever is less. This misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or up to a $5,000 fine.

Six of the phony contractors also were issued stop orders. CSLB investigators can halt job site activity when any person, with or without a contractor license, does not have workers’ compensation insurance coverage for employees.

Failure to comply with a stop order can result in misdemeanor charges and penalties, including 60 days in jail and/or up to $10,000 in fines.

“One of the suspects was brazenly using a contractor license number that belongs to a legitimate contractor,” added Christenson. “Always be sure to check your contractor’s license number on the CSLB website and ask the contractor for photo identification to verify the person’s identity.”

 

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Published: March 19, 2015 - Volume 13 - Issue 49